It started with stock losses.
The cattlemen blamed rustlers, sheep-herders, Indians, Mexicans, railroad Chinamen and Canadians. The sheriff could tell they didn’t believe their own accusations.
“Well,” said the rancher, “It’s as if they vanished into thin air. The others are spooked crazy. They won’t settle unless they’re under cover.”
“Cattle don’t vanish into thin air,” said the sheriff.
“I know,” he replied sourly, “but that’s what it looks like.”
The Chinese labourers hadn’t happened on beef, but were uneasy. “They won’t sleep in the tents anymore,” commented the overseer. “They’re all trying to bunk under a full wagon at night. I tried to get the foremen to talk sense to them, but they’re as bad. Must come of being Irish.”
Both Irish foremen and Chinamen spoke of “wings in the night” and a feeling of dread. “None of us,” added the Chinaman Li Fong, “know the English for this creature, but we’ve sent for priests who may know the beast.”
The Indians, well.
“It’s good you’re here,” the medicine man told the sheriff after he’d sat down. “This thing taking cattle and horses at night is a European problem and it needs white men to deal with it.”
“What?” The sheriff hadn’t explained his visit.
“Your totems have followed you to this land for many years, starting with the Spanish. Bears, eagles, wolves, foxes, even horses,” the other man shrugged, “not a problem. This is different. Two Feathers,” a young man stepped forward, “will take you to see it. It will save time when the holy Chinamen arrive.”
So, here he was, lying in cover with an Indian, looking at a cave through a spyglass. Looking through a spyglass at a dragon.
“Well, sheriff,” said Two Feathers beside him. “It’s your totem, what’re you going to do about it?”